Anthela nicothoe (Boisduval, 1832)
Urticating Anthelid
(one synonym: Laelia australasiae Herrich-Schäffer, [1855])
ANTHELINAE ,   ANTHELIDAE ,   BOMBYCOIDEA
 
Don Herbison-Evans,
(donherbisonevans@outlook.com)
and
Stella Crossley

Anthela nicothoe
(Photo: copyright of Irene Denton, Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales)

This is a big brown hairy Caterpillar. The hairs are absent from between the segments giving it a tufted look. This is especially evident when it adopts its defensive posture, and curls into a tight circle. The caterpillar looks like it has a white nose.

Anthela nicothoe
(Photo: courtesy of David and Ines Parker, Adelaide Hills, South Australia)

The hairs are very sharp, thin and brittle. They easily penetrate the skin and break off. This can affect some people causing urticaria.

It feeds on various Wattles ( Acacia, MIMOSACEAE ), especially :

  • Cootamundra Wattle ( Acacia baileyana ), and
  • Silver Wattle ( Acacia dealbata ),

    although it will also feed on plants from other families, such as:

  • Monterey Pine ( Pinus radiata, PINACEAE ).

    Anthela nicothoe
    (Photo: courtesy of David and Ines Parker, Adelaide Hills, South Australia)

    The female Caterpillar grows to a length of about 8 cms., but the male grows only to about 5 cms.

    Anthela nicothoe
    (Specimen: courtesy of the The Australian Museum)

    Our specimen pupated in a brown cocoon half way up its enclosure. The Caterpillar poked its hairs through the cocoon wall before pupating inside, giving the cocoon a furry appearance, although the hairs were just as thin and brittle as when they were on the Caterpillar.

    Anthela nicothoe
    Female
    (Photo: courtesy of David and Ines Parker, Adelaide Hills, South Australia)

    The adult moths vary in colour from grey to brownish-orange, with a number of zig-zag lines running parallel to the margin of each wing, and two small white spots outlined in black on each forewing.

    Anthela nicothoe
    Male
    (Photo: courtesy of David and Ines Parker, Adelaide Hills, South Australia)

    The male is smaller and has feathery antennae, whereas the female has wings that taper more, and has filamentous antennae. Male moths have a wing span of about 7 cms. Females have a wing span up to about 10 cms.

    The species has been found in:

  • Queensland,
  • New South Wales,
  • Victoria,
  • Tasmania, and
  • South Australia.

    Anthela nicothoe
     
    Anthela nicothoe
    disembodied male
     
    disembodied female
    (Photos: courtesy of Peter Marriott)


    Further reading :

    Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Dechauffour de Boisduval,
    Faune Entomologique de L'Ocean Pacifique,
    Voyage de Decouvertes de la Corvette l'Astrolabe,
    Division 7, Part 1 : Lepidopteres (1832), pp. 226-227.

    Ian F.B. Common,
    Moths of Australia,
    Melbourne University Press, 1990, pl. 13.5, pp. 70, 394.

    Pat and Mike Coupar,
    Flying Colours,
    New South Wales University Press, Sydney 1992, p. 26.

    Peter Marriott,
    Moths of Victoria - Part 1,
    Silk Moths and Allies - BOMBYCOIDEA
    ,
    Entomological Society of Victoria, 2008, pp. 16-17, 20-21.

    Paul Zborowski and Ted Edwards,
    A Guide to Australian Moths,
    CSIRO Publishing, 2007, p. 156.


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    (updated 19 September 2011, 10 March 2015)